Friday, July 15, 2016

An Open Letter To Hugo Nominees And Their Publishers

I'm not quite done with this year's Hugo packet yet, but I'm already seeing some of the stuff I saw last year.

The Hugo voting packet does matter. Even if your name is Neal Stephenson, it's not reasonable to assume every WorldCon member has read your work, or has read the specific work up for nomination. So, please:

1. Actually provide something. If I haven't read the work for nomination and you don't provide a sample, then voters have to go hunt you down. A lot of us are more likely to just give you a null vote.

2. Test your files. For the love of the Aesir, test your files. In this year's package I've found: One .pdf that would not register as existing on my Nook. One .pdf that crashed my Nook when I tried to open it. One .epub file that I could not open on any device using any software. One file, from a major publisher, that had repeated lines everywhere and a watermark that took up three pages on my Nook every time I hit it (every five pages) - it was almost unreadable. And one fancast where all the provided links on the pdf were broken. Please, test your files. There's no excuse for major publishers not to provide .epub and .mobi versions and not to test them on actual ereaders. In fact, anyone can make a usable .epub and .mobi using Calibre, which is free. You can at least test it on the Kindle and Nook apps on a computer, also free. And it doesn't take five minutes to test your links. Well unless there's a lot of them, which brings me to:

3. If you are being judged on your entire body of work for the year (editor, fancast, magazine, fan writer, etc) then provide what you think is the best. I am not...and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here...going to listen to 50 2 hour podcasts. I'm going to pick one at random. And I may pick your weakest episode. So, make sure people see your best work by narrowing it down to your favorites. Or the ones that got the best feedback from readers.

4. ...which brings me to: Don't provide a political rant as your sample. Or a religious one. Regardless of your beliefs. You will lose votes if your sample insults Democrats, Republicans, Christians, whoever - and some of those votes will be from people who agree with you but just don't think political rants are appropriate material to win major awards.

Mostly it's #2 that annoys me, though. Especially when publishers do it - it's not the writer's fault and really, Penguin can't test a sample on a Nook before sending it out completely broken. (Yes, I am going to name and shame - Penguin sending out a file that had every fl missing, repeated lines including lines interlaced with each other, and obnoxious watermarking is just...really...)

If you're nominated for a Hugo, do what it takes to win it - and that means providing clean, tested files, working links, and appropriate samples.